critically evaluating a classic argument
In this essay, you will be critically evaluating a classic argument
Decide whether this argument is successful or not. If you decide this essay is successful, discuss why. You may use the structure of the argument, the tone, and the various types of support (ethos, pathos, and logos) as proof of the argumentâ€™s success. Make sure that your thesis has an introduction that contains a hook and a thesis, body paragraphs that discuss one proof at a time (one paragraph per example), and a conclusion. If you decide that the essay is not successful then discuss the fallacies that the argument makes. You are still required to have a strong introduction (hook and thesis), body paragraphs that discuss one fallacy at a time, and a conclusion. You may also discuss how the essay is successful with reservations. In this case, point to both the support and the fallacies you have found in the work.
This paper should be at least 700 words, but no more than 850. The paper should be formatted correctly MLA style and written in third person (do not use the words I, me, us, we, or you). The essay should also contain citations and a works cited list.
A Modest Proposal
For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland
From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and
For Making Them Beneficial to The Public
By Jonathan Swift (1729)
It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or
travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin
doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or
six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms. These
mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are
forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their
helpless infants: who as they grow up either turn thieves for want of work,
or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or
sell themselves to the Barbadoes.
I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children
in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and
frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the
kingdom a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could
find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound,
useful members of the commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public as
to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.
But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the
children of professed beggars; it is of a much greater extent, and shall
take in the whole number of infants at a certain age who are born of parents
in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in
“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in
London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most
delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked,
or boiled …”
As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this
important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of other
projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation. It
is true, a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for
a solar year, with little other nourishment; at most not above the value of
2s., which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her
lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I
propose to provide for them in such a manner as instead of being a charge
upon their parents or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest
of their lives, they shall on the contrary contribute to the feeding, and
partly to the clothing, of many thousands.
There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent
those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their
bastard children, alas! too frequent among us! sacrificing the poor innocent
babes I doubt more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move
tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast.
The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a
half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple
whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand
couples who are able to maintain their own children, although I apprehend
there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom; but
this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand
breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry, or
whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only
remains one hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually
born. The question therefore is, how this number shall be reared and
provided for, which, as I have already said, under the present situation of
affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we
can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build
houses (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom pick
up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive at six years old, except where
they are of towardly parts, although I confess they learn the rudiments much
earlier, during which time, they can however be properly looked upon only as
probationers, as I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county
of Cavan, who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances
under the age of six, even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the
quickest proficiency in that art.
I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old
is no salable commodity; and even when they come to this age they will not
yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half-a-crown at most on the
exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the
charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.
I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not
be liable to the least objection.
I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London,
that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious,
nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled;
and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.
I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred
and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be
reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more
than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these
children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded
by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females.
That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the
sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always
advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to
render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at
an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or
hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper
or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.
I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds,
and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.
I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for
landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to
have the best title to the children.
Infant’s flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in
March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an
eminent French physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more
children born in Roman Catholic countries about nine months after Lent than
at any other season; therefore, reckoning a year after Lent, the markets
will be more glutted than usual, because the number of popish infants is at
least three to one in this kingdom: and therefore it will have one other
collateral advantage, by lessening the number of papists among us.
I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar’s child (in which
list I reckon all cottagers, laborers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be
about two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman
would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child,
which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat,
when he hath only some particular friend or his own family to dine with him.
Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his
tenants; the mother will have eight shillings net profit, and be fit for
work till she produces another child.
Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flay
the carcass; the skin of which artificially dressed will make admirable
gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.
As to our city of Dublin, shambles may be appointed for this purpose in the
most convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be
wanting; although I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing
them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.
A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I
highly esteem, was lately pleased in discoursing on this matter to offer a
refinement upon my scheme. He said that many gentlemen of this kingdom,
having of late destroyed their deer, he conceived that the want of venison
might be well supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens, not
exceeding fourteen years of age nor under twelve; so great a number of both
sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of work and
service; and these to be disposed of by their parents, if alive, or
otherwise by their nearest relations. But with due deference to so excellent
a friend and so deserving a patriot, I cannot be altogether in his
sentiments; for as to the males, my American acquaintance assured me, from
frequent experience, that their flesh was generally tough and lean, like
that of our schoolboys by continual exercise, and their taste disagreeable;
and to fatten them would not answer the charge. Then as to the females, it
would, I think, with humble submission be a loss to the public, because they
soon would become breeders themselves; and besides, it is not improbable
that some scrupulous people might be apt to censure such a practice
(although indeed very unjustly), as a little bordering upon cruelty; which,
I confess, hath always been with me the strongest objection against any
project, however so well intended.
But in order to justify my friend, he confessed that this expedient was put
into his head by the famous Psalmanazar, a native of the island Formosa, who
came from thence to London above twenty years ago, and in conversation told
my friend, that in his country when any young person happened to be put to
death, the executioner sold the carcass to persons of quality as a prime
dainty; and that in his time the body of a plump girl of fifteen, who was
crucified for an attempt to poison the emperor, was sold to his imperial
majesty’s prime minister of state, and other great mandarins of the court,
in joints from the gibbet, at four hundred crowns. Neither indeed can I
deny, that if the same use were made of several plump young girls in this
town, who without one single groat to their fortunes cannot stir abroad
without a chair, and appear at playhouse and assemblies in foreign fineries
which they never will pay for, the kingdom would not be the worse.
Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast
number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed, and I have been
desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken to ease the nation of
so grievous an encumbrance. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter,
because it is very well known that they are every day dying and rotting by
cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably
expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now in as hopeful a
condition; they cannot get work, and consequently pine away for want of
nourishment, to a degree that if at any time they are accidentally hired to
common labor, they have not strength to perform it; and thus the country and
themselves are happily delivered from the evils to come.
I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think
the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as
well as of the highest importance.
For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of
papists, with whom we are yearly overrun, being the principal breeders of
the nation as well as our most dangerous enemies; and who stay at home on
purpose with a design to deliver the kingdom to the Pretender, hoping to
take their advantage by the absence of so many good protestants, who have
chosen rather to leave their country than stay at home and pay tithes
against their conscience to an episcopal curate.
Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own,
which by law may be made liable to distress and help to pay their landlord’s
rent, their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown.
Thirdly, Whereas the maintenance of an hundred thousand children, from two
years old and upward, cannot be computed at less than ten shillings a-piece
per annum, the nation’s stock will be thereby increased fifty thousand
pounds per annum, beside the profit of a new dish introduced to the tables
of all gentlemen of fortune in the kingdom who have any refinement in taste.
And the money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being entirely of
our own growth and manufacture.
Fourthly, The constant breeders, beside the gain of eight shillings sterling
per annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of
maintaining them after the first year.
Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns; where the
vintners will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for
dressing it to perfection, and consequently have their houses frequented by
all the fine gentlemen, who justly value themselves upon their knowledge in
good eating: and a skilful cook, who understands how to oblige his guests,
will contrive to make it as expensive as they please.
Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise
nations have either encouraged by rewards or enforced by laws and penalties.
It would increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their children,
when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in
some sort by the public, to their annual profit instead of expense. We
should see an honest emulation among the married women, which of them could
bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as fond of their
wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of their mares in
foal, their cows in calf, their sows when they are ready to farrow; nor
offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a
Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition of
some thousand carcasses in our exportation of barreled beef, the propagation
of swine’s flesh, and improvement in the art of making good bacon, so much
wanted among us by the great destruction of pigs, too frequent at our
tables; which are no way comparable in taste or magnificence to a
well-grown, fat, yearling child, which roasted whole will make a
considerable figure at a lord mayor’s feast or any other public
entertainment. But this and many others I omit, being studious of brevity.
Supposing that one thousand families in this city, would be constant
customers for infants flesh, besides others who might have it at merry
meetings, particularly at weddings and christenings, I compute that Dublin
would take off annually about twenty thousand carcasses; and the rest of the
kingdom (where probably they will be sold somewhat cheaper) the remaining
I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this
proposal, unless it should be urged, that the number of people will be
thereby much lessened in the kingdom. This I freely own, and ’twas indeed
one principal design in offering it to the world. I desire the reader will
observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one individual Kingdom of
Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think, ever can be upon
Earth. Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our
absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold
furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly
rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of
curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our
women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of
learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and
the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor
acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very
moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our
country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least
one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of
honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution
could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to
cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor
could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though
often and earnestly invited to it.
Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients,
’till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some
hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.
But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering
vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success,
I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it
hath something solid and real, of no expence and little trouble, full in our
own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging England. For
this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too
tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps
I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation
After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any
offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap,
easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in
contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or
authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points. First, as things
now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for an hundred
thousand useless mouths and backs. And secondly, there being a round million
of creatures in human figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole
subsistence put into a common stock would leave them in debt two millions of
pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by profession to the bulk of
farmers, cottagers, and laborers, with their wives and children who are
beggars in effect: I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and
may perhaps be so bold as to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the
parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a
great happiness to have been sold for food, at a year old in the manner I
prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes as
they have since gone through by the oppression of landlords, the
impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common
sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the
inclemencyof the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of entailing
the like or greater miseries upon their breed for ever.
I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal
interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other
motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing
for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I
have no children by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest
being nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing.